Powerful 7.8 Magnitude Earthquake Rocks Southeastern Iran
April 16, 2013

Powerful 7.8 Magnitude Earthquake Rocks Southeastern Iran

Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

A powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck southeastern Iran, near the Pakistan border this morning at about 10:45 GMT (3:15 p.m. local time). Iran´s state-operated Press TV cited reports that at least 40 people are feared dead. However, the latest report from The Guardian said that number could be in the hundreds.

The Iranian Seismological Center initially put the magnitude at 7.5, but an updated measurement of 7.8 was reported by the US Geological Survey (USGS). The quake shook buildings as far away as New Delhi, India (1,500 miles from the epicenter) and sent panic-stricken residents of nearby Karachi, Pakistan fleeing into the streets. Several Persian Gulf states reported tremors. The epicenter of the temblor was about 50 miles east-south-east of Khash, Iran, according to the USGS.

The southeastern border of Iran, the area hardest hit by the quake, is home to nearly 2 million people who live in three main cities: Zahaedan, Saravan and Khash. At least 400,000 people live within the closest areas of the strike zone, according to the Tabnak website.

While several media agencies have cited reports of dozens or hundreds feared dead, the only confirmed deaths at this time come from the province of Baluchistan, Pakistan, where the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reported five deaths. A lawyer for the commission said the deaths all occurred in the remote town of Panjgur, about 50 miles from the Iranian border.

“A wall collapsed and five people lost their lives, including three children and a woman,” said the Commission´s Tahir Hussain, speaking to the NY Times by phone from Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan.

One report put the earthquake at a depth of 9.7 miles, a rarity for temblors. Such deep quakes have the capability of producing even greater destruction, according to the report.

Iran is prone to earthquakes and has, in the past, been rocked by powerful temblors of similar proportion. The NY Times reported a 6.6 magnitude quake struck near the city of Bam in 2003, killing at least 26,000 people, and another along the Caspian Sea in 1990 killed at least 30,000 people. Just last week, a 6.1 quake hit Iran´s Bushehr Province, home to the country´s main nuclear reactor, according to the Times.

Unlike other destructive quakes that have struck the country in the past, today´s temblor was not situated under a densely populated area, and will likely keep death tolls at a minimum.

Carrieann Bedwell, a seismologist with the USGS, told CNN that Tuesday´s quake was “a large event for any area” and could be expected to cause significant damage. Aftershocks can be expected for days and weeks after a quake of this magnitude, she added.